I was talking to an elder friend at the meeting tonight and he was in Florida for a month. He had gone to a meeting, and met a very nice woman from India. They were talking about that meeting, on that night.
Every meeting has one, we all know what it is, but nobody who really engages in their sobriety, will utilize them. Where you sit, in a room, is a good barometer of where you are in your sobriety. Some call it, “Front Row Sobriety,” however, not a lot of people sit in the front row, except for those who are used to sitting there regularly.
Many of us don’t want to sit in the very front row …
I am a second row sober man. I always sit in my same seat on Thursday’s. On Friday I sit in my regular seat, right at the front of the table, next to the chair. That is my seat.
Every meeting has a “Back Row” of seats, right along the back wall. Various people, in various meetings, sit in that proverbial back row. Some sober folks with lots of time, who don’t necessarily want to draw attention to themselves, sit in the back row.
That is common.
Then, you have those people who are the last ones in, they either come right at the hour, or just after. So all the seats up front are all taken, by the time the meeting starts. Which dictates that, if you want a front row, or front of the room seat, you have to get there early.
The back rows of a meeting, are usually sat with folks who sneak in, just under the hour mark, and fail to get a seat up front, or further to the front.
The conversation my friend had with the Woman from India, concerned The Shoe Store:
And she said to him, “You know that back row of seats ? Yeah, he said, she continued:
That back row is the Shoe Store … You have the Loafers, the Sneakers, and the Slippers.
All the shoes are represented …
We had a good laugh.
Here, we know about that back row. Those people who come in last, or late. Usually, they don’t make it till the end of the meeting. Or, they are the last ones in and the first ones out after the prayer concludes. They come and go, with negligible contact with anyone, because they really don’t want to interact with anyone in the room, for one reason or another.
Seating in a meeting is time sensitive. The earlier you get there, the better seat you are going to be able to choose, if you choose. Most of my friends always sit in the same areas.
Those who sit in the front row, or those who sit in the middle of the action, and those who tend to hang back in the pack. In an unobtrusive seat, like I said, where they do not bring attention to themselves.
In all my meetings, I do service, one way or another. So I have my choice of seat. I see everybody who comes in the room. I try and shake hands with each one of them, as one of my other elder friends said to me once …
When you shake a hand, it is very important to ALWAYS make eye contact. And you always want to SMILE. Because we want people to feel welcomed and that we mean goodness when we shake their hands, and not seem like we are put out by having to greet, when we really don’t want to greet …
Before the meeting tonight, one of my friends, whom I have not seen in a while came. And we sat outside talking about Yoga, the Gym and Work.
I know for me, as I said to her, that, “You just got to stick around…” “You just have to STAY and watch your friends and your fellows.” I know that I watch my friends, and over the past many months, I see how hard I have worked, and how little others have worked. And it shows in their carriage and demeanor, and in their words, when they speak.
The amount of work you put into your sobriety, shows up over time. And every time you hear someone talk, you get an idea of just how MUCH or how LITTLE, they are contributing to their own sobriety.
I’ve been around a good stretch of time. And I know all of my friends. I know who they were when they came in, and what kinds of decisions they made, and how fucked up things got, in the interim.
My friend added … Yeah, Shit Happens. And that is true.
I, at least, have an idea of the trajectory I am on, and where I want to go. I feel good. I look good, because for a long time, I did not look good at all. I was just hanging out, waiting for something to happen. I really wasn’t concerned with my well being, all that well. Not Good at all.
I was sober, but I was physically, COASTING …
Back in February, I got a kick in the ass at the doctors office. For the first time, in a long time, I really noticed that my body had changed for the better. I had settled for my pear shaped, bloated belly, ass hanging out HIV look.
For a good decade, I was resigned to the shape my body had taken. I had said to myself,
“Well, fuck it. This is the body God gave me so I better get used to it.”
In February, through diet, exercise and medical treatment, My body did actually shift in the positive direction. And I noticed it. Which sent me into overdrive, mentally and emotionally. I changed my wardrobe. I got sexy. And damn, I looked good.
And my friends all noticed. That has changed my outlook in ways I had not really considered.
Here we are today.
Fifty is beginning to feel good to me. And thankfully,
I am not sitting in the Shoe Store.
One definition of a bottom is the point when the last thing you lost or the next thing you are about to lose is more important to you than booze. That point is different for everyone, and some of us die before we get there.
Our young man, at age nineteen, walked through a second story window, and had fallen twenty feet head first into a concrete window well.
He got sober after that event… YOUNG !!!
How many people get that chance to figure out their lives so young, find the rooms, and live successfully ?
There are young people in our rooms. Some of them have stuck it out, on the first pass, and made it. However, many of them made several passes, and are in the room, not so sanguine as they once were. Then there are those who came in, cleaned up, figured out they were good, left the rooms, and never returned.
Some of those young people are dead now.
Had I figured out, at twenty-eight, how to do this when I found myself alone, at that time, I would be twenty-three years sober today. Those times, were fraught with complications, and sober groups, were not so accommodating to people with AIDS.
The good thing about hindsight is this … I have recorded, on this blog, every single lesson I learned during those first two years I was sober, the first time. And on this second pass, with proper support and people in our meetings here, I’ve succeeded very well.
But I know, I don’t have another recovery within me. I know that at any point, life can turn on a dime.
The book says quite succinctly:
There will come a time, when the only thing that stands between YOU and a DRUG or a DRINK, will be your Higher Power.
Which is why, we need to connect with something Greater than Ourselves, sooner rather than later. I know, from experience lately, that those folks I see often, who are not spiritually connected, have flirted with crack pipes and heroine and alcohol.
The other night, I sat with a friend and told him what he really needed to do, if he wanted to succeed and not pick up that crack pipe again. Whether he follows that direction is still yet to be seen.
Funny that while we were reading this story, I got the portion that read:
“The speaker said, If you’re an apple, you can be the best apple you can be, but you can never be an orange. I was an apple all right, and for the first time I understood that I had spent my life trying to be an orange. I looked around at a room filled with apples and, if I was understanding the speaker, most of them were no longer trying to be oranges.”
I pride myself in knowing that if I wear something, I am completely sure that not another person in this city, owns, the same clothing I do.
I was wearing my orange outfit tonight. Everybody laughed at me.
The clock is ticking down to my departure for New Foundland on Thursday morning. While at the meeting, one of our guys showed me pictures of St. John’s from his recent trip to The Rock and what I can expect and what I should see while I am there.
When we come into the rooms, in whatever state we find ourselves in, and whatever our bottoms were, The Promises start materializing for each one of us.
Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.
Our writer talks about the fourteen year mark, as he is writing his story. He was married in year nine, and had his first child in year twelve.
My route into sobriety was not easy. I persisted though, and the final promise that eluded us for years and years, finally came to pass in year thirteen.
2014 was the year that Mama and then, the baby, came into my life. A relationship that I chose to build, from the ground up. One phone call, turned into this relationship where Am now married, have a life, and a child in my life who calls me Daddy.
Besides Grand Pa, I am the only other man in her life. And on Thursday, I will get to see the little girl I have spent the better part of three years raising with Mama.
The closing paragraph of tonight’s story says:
I once knew a woman who was crying before a meeting. She was approached by a five-year old girl who told her, “You don’t have to cry here. This is a good place. They took my daddy and they made him better.”
That’s exactly what A.A. did for me; it took me and made me better.
And for that we are eternally grateful.
Always pay attention to the coffee maker, at whatever meeting you go to…
Six months ago, when it came time to change up my meetings, I realized that there was a meeting, just down the hill from home. Essentially, a 10 minute walk through the tunnel to a little church of a building, not far from home.
The Padua Center, is a building that houses the remains (read: Altar, Statues, Lectern) of an old church that was demolished, but the core of that church had been kept, and now mass is held in that building on Sunday mornings.
Many years ago, there was another meeting that was began by an old friend, who has since died. I used to go to this little meeting, when it was up and running.
Fast Forward to November 2016. I looked up Love and Tolerance in the meeting list and headed down one Monday night. Every meeting, has its resident coffee maker. One of the most unsung jobs in the fellowship. Nobody cares WHO made the coffee, but it better be damn well perked by the time those ungrateful alcoholics walk through the door.
Hell hath no fury like an Alcoholic, with coffee not ready to go…
Danger Will Robinson, DANGER !!!!
I’ve known some crazy coffee makers in my time.
That night I met our coffee maker extraordinaire. Back then, the meeting was sparsely attended, and only needed a small, 12 cup perk coffee maker. Over the last six months our intrepid coffee maker invested in a full bore 60 cup, standard issue, coffee urn.
The number of meeting attendees, has more than doubled in six months. And all of us are grateful for the coffee maker. He is there every week, busy or not, making coffee.
This past Monday, I asked him if he could give me “thirty minutes?” He understood that I was asking him to come to a meeting to hear ME speak.
Funny that …
This afternoon around 1 p.m. he texted me saying that he could not make our date for the meeting. I was on my way to the bank to prepare for my trip to N.L. next Thursday.
I came home and made two phone calls. One came back as a NO, and the other message was not received prior to the meeting. I took that as a sign, to trust God and head to the meeting as usual. While setting up, I told one of our women that I needed a speaker, and she volunteered to speak for me.
Not ten minutes later, my coffee maker texted me saying his late meeting at the office had been cancelled and that he was on his way. Little did he know that HE was the one who was speaking and not ME.
That realization came about 5 minutes before I introduced him to the room.
Color him surprised…
It all went as God had ordered it. He knocked it out of the park.
After the meeting I told him that newcomer quote I heard a couple of weeks ago that:
If you get asked to Speak at St. Matthias, You Have Arrived …
Our little Monday, Love and Tolerance meeting is a wealth of Sober Experience, that I have been tapping since I joined St. Matthias a few months ago. Lots of sober men and women who don’t usually hit the Thursday meeting, so, fresh minds are fresh stories to hear.
Last week, into last weekend, New Foundland was hit by a severe blizzard, which prompted some serious considerations of not making the trip next week, due to weather concerns. I called Air Canada, and spoke to them about weather. Then I called the bank, and tried to get some insurance on my $650.00 airline ticket. (That was a bust)
Tuesday would be the day that I would decide to either get on a plane or cancel my trip, because getting an airplane into St. John’s is dicey, frequently. Wind, Weather, Snow, are a given on any day. Tonight, it seems that the weather will be looking up, thanks to Environment Canada’s six day forecast.
I have cash in hand, and a good weather forecast, at the moment. In New Foundland, weather is never a given. All it takes is a little weather headed into that area, and Mother Nature can dump up to sixty centimeters of snow on any given day.
It has been pissing rain in Montreal for two days now. A Rain/Snow mix may fall tomorrow night, and more rain. We have heard, mentioned, double digit positive temps for this weekend … Let Us Pray …
Friday, last week, a good friend of mine witnessed me, two nights in a row, drinking my favorite Orange Soda. He was not impressed with that. On Friday night he said to me that I needed to stop the sugar intake and that I needed to look into the Keto Diet.
Saturday night, I did some serious investigating and came away with a diet plan that I was willing to work with. The Keto Diet, is strict. Lots of No, No’s. And very little leeway in the eradication of sugars and carbohydrates.
The Keto diet has a scientific basis. On the second link, you will find all the scientific data with Diabetes and Cancer patients.
I haven’t had a sip of soda in five days. I haven’t had any sugar whatsoever, in five days either. I wrote down the dietary restrictions on the fridge, and now we both eat very well, based on the Keto Diet restrictions in place.
Let me tell you that Detoxing from Sugar is BRUTAL … The first three days, I thought I was going to loose my mind. I was hormonal, and seriously demented. I had headaches, and I was terribly, emotionally, cracked.
One of my women, whom I work with, read my F.B. Page and she has serious time invested into the Keto Diet. So she called me the other night and we tweaked my plan, with a few changes and substitutions.
I spoke about having realized in February that I had, in fact, lost ten pounds, which spurred me into a radical lifestyle change, personally. I want to feel good, and look good, and look good doing it too.
People are noticing.
Thursday, after the meeting, is my “teaching night.”
My Elder friend in Utah, and I talk weekly via Google Hangout. We get to see each other and talk about how his life has changed since he ended his mission in Montreal. It was important that we kept our friendship going, because i want him in my life and we are friends, and each week, I get a little Faith Boost from him. General Conference was last weekend, this year, he got to see it live and in person. I get to watch it here at home.
His takeaway was this:
Community is important. Faith is Important. Charity is important.
Distilling a theological message to three points …
The number of walls you can knock down when ministering to your community, friends, and family, the better. We don’t need any more walls, we need community, we need love, we need charity and we need to love one another fully.
This message, in three parts, is familiar to me. I’ve heard it repeated many times on many fronts over the past month or so.
The Blessings of Easter is quickly approaching. The whole reason the Atonement is central to the church and her people. The sacrifice of the Cross makes this life possible and grants us life, love and faith.
Tomorrow is the Best Night of the Week.
Surely more to come.
“The more you realize, the more you realize that there is nothing to realize. The Idea that there’s somewhere we have got to get to, and something we have to attain, is our basic delusion.”
There are but two sins … The Lesser, is to get in the way of our own spiritual path. The Greater, is to get in the way of someone else’s spiritual path.
I see humility for today as a safe and secure stance midway between violent emotional extremes. It is a quiet place where I can keep enough perspective and enough balance to take my next small step up the clearly marked road that points toward eternal values.
The reading tonight touches on Arrogance, Attitude and Humility.
Which leads back to yesterdays quote:
I don’t know, but I am trying to find out, OK !
The Fellowship, early on, was a sordid affair. And thinking about it logically, the Big Book was written towards a certain segment of the population. And in the early years, the Fellowship grew out of trials and errors.
They really did not have a leg to stand on, when it came to knowledge or certainty.
This reading talks about some, early on, who believed they had the “Real A.A.” And that they had a definitive answer to the problem of the drink, and only they could impart this message and that, from the reading, “You better get it…”
A very arrogant approach, don’t you think ?
This reading is dates 1961. The Fellowship came together in 1939. That is only 22 years from inception, to the point Bill wrote this passage for the Grapevine. I imagine that Bill probably mulled over what he was either hearing himself, or from others, who came in contact with the men, whom this reading, refers to.
I don’t know, in my life today, WHO has the definitive answer to recovery. Because I know, for myself, that there are old timers with TIME, but they surely are not sober. There are men and women I respect, who have some time.
All I know is this … Every so often I am introduced to someone who has a method, or a practice, or a way, they work their program. Over the past four or so years, I’ve employed several practices and methods that I know worked for the men and women, I have adopted these practices from.
None of them, we could say are the End All Be All. They are merely, additions to practice and method, to incorporate, along with the Book.
Working with others, is a great way to find out for ones self, that:
No, I don’t know, but I am trying to find out. OK !
I don’t have all the answers, which is why I go to meetings and talk with people I respect, who have a little more experience than I do. We are all souls walking in the same direction, trying to figure it out ourselves.
There is no ultimate authority, except the God of our understanding as He speaks in our Group Conscience.
I know what size my pants are. And I know how big, my head can get if I am not careful.
Keeping it simple and staying out of my head is a daily task.
If either my pants or my head swell to greatly, then I know:
I must decrease so that He may increase.
Friday night I saw some folks I don’t usually see at the Friday meeting. In fact, I haven’t seen either one of them since last September. Not a call, Not a meeting, Nothing …
Saturday I spent time with one of my women I work with. And she told me a story, about one of those men I saw the night prior. Many, Many months ago, our man went to Florida and he used, pissing away 11 years of sobriety … I know, of him, that he stopped coming to meetings for a long time, so long, that I was given his key and his treasury responsibility. He did not call, nor did he talk to me or anyone else in that particular room, for that matter.
Now I know why … He used and came home and isolated and kept a secret. For MONTHS. And I know, from his history, how hard he worked to get sober, quoting the book, like he knew the book, like the back of his hand … He didn’t …
Friday night, he sat next to me, and did not say two words to me all night long. He and my other friend left after the meeting and did not stay to talk.
This is what happens when you stop going to meetings, you stop talking to people, you keep secrets and your sobriety looses its priority.
Sad. That particular meeting did not feed him, like it needed to and he stayed away from meetings that might have fed him and kept him “on the beam.”
But addict for addict and alcoholic for alcoholic, we are going to do what we are going to do, and damn the torpedoes.
**** **** ****
You never know what is going to rise to the surface, when you step into a room.
Tonight’s read talks about:
- Drinking some more.
- Driving Drunk,
- Driving drunk some more.
- Going to a meeting because it meant more for them, rather than for us,
- Coming to realize that “hey, maybe I’m an alcoholic too !”
- Coming, Coming to, and Making a decision …
- Speaking the Third Step Prayer for themselves …
Flooded with Feeling, has been the story of my life for the past good chunk of months. Many of my friends, men and women, are in this mix right now, themselves. The Monday night meeting is a wealth of experience, strength and hope.
The line that stuck out in this story goes like this …
“I just wanted another drink …”
My Momma once said to me that: “You better Never find yourself in jail, because if you do, I will never bail you out, you will be on your own.”
I did listen to some of the advice she gave me, however backhanded that single piece of advice was, when it was delivered. I did, many times, get behind the wheel while intoxicated. And it is a good thing that nobody ever got hurt. Because I was seriously stupid. But what is an alcoholic going to do ?
Nothing stands between us and that next drink …
Happy hour only lasted from 4 to 7. Then you had to go home, change your office clothes for dance clothes, and return for the nightly debauchery. Over and Over and Over.
Until one day, You become a character written about in the Big Book, being that tornado, running ragged, in the life of someone trying to get sober at the same time.
Sadly, I would remain that tornado for three more years, until Todd stepped in and said the word STOP. I am amazed, that all the people I drank with, who got sober, before I did, never said a word to me, while I was IN IT. And to this day, I don’t know why they didn’t try to help me. Because the trajectory of my life would surely have been different, had that actually happened, but didn’t.
Our man, in this story, relates his approach to the Third Step and the Prayer. While on the phone, with the lady friend who took him to his first meeting, he writes that “while on the phone he read the Third Step Prayer to her… then afterwards he returns to the prayer and repeats it to himself.”
When I got sober the first time, I had Todd in my life. And every night, coming to work, the practice was, to turn my life over, every time I crossed the threshold into the bar. I practiced that task every night for two years. I learned how to do that and trusted in the man I was turning my life over to, because I am still alive.
When I got sober the second time, It was just me, and my prayer to God. There was nobody else out there, holding my hand. And let me tell you just how unsure I was of myself, not knowing IF I could TRUST myself alone … IF I could do it RIGHT.
It did not come for a long time, the revelation of Todd and Step Three, being the incarnation of God Himself in my life when I really needed it. I did not make that connection until I began to relate my memoirs on this blog many years ago.
I had seen God, in the flesh. I knew there was a God, all along. I knew the drill. I just did not trust anything that I did, on my own.
But I am getting better at it, today.
Over the years, I’ve watched the men I worked with, who for some, did not necessarily believe in God, how they worked around the Third Step, each for their specific sensibilities. The Friday meeting has been a proving ground for our young people, who also, many of them, could not see past the word God, and got and stayed sober.
Many of them came, stayed a bit, left, and never returned.
Even though we spent years studying the word God, trying to find work around’s to allow the belief in whatever worked until they figured God out for themselves.
Every day, we have an opportunity to learn something new about ourselves.
Do I want a thimble full of God, one day at a time, or
Do I want a bucket full of God, one day at a time ???
And when is it that I realize that I am a drop in the big ocean that is humanity (read: God). And that I am one with ALL that is, because a little of all that is OUT THERE, is within me, and that a little piece of WITHIN ME is one with all that is OUT THERE.
And that, as I live and breathe, the universe out there, knows, before I even utter a single thought, prayer or word …
How amazing is that ???
Why, at this particular point in history, has God chosen to communicate His healing grace to so many of us ? Every aspect of this global unfoldment can be related to a single crucial word. The word is “communication.” There has been a life saving communication among ourselves, with the world around us, and with God.
From the beginning, communication in A.A. has been no ordinary transmission of helpful ideas and attitudes. Because of our kinship in suffering, and because our common means of deliverance are effective for ourselves only when constantly carried to others, our channels of contact have always been charged with the language of the heart.
There is a reason that the Friday night meeting is the BEST meeting of the week. There are times when the depth of gratitude appears and we are reminded just how lucky was all are to be sitting together in a darkened room for an hour.
They say that the opposite of addiction is not recovery, but CONNECTION.
We all need someone in our lives to stand in our corner and cheer for us. We all need that one particular friend, who is going to show us love and encourage us to step out of our boxes and expand to meet the world head on when we get clean and sober.
The words Gratitude, Silence, God and Rooms came up in discussion.
Another friend spoke about how scientists found Seven planets orbiting a cool dwarf star, Trappist One, some 39 light years from Earth. And if we can prove LIFE on another world, in the coming decades, that is going to blow all of our socks off and change the face of humanity as we know it.
I talked about silence. And how important Silence is to me. I also talked about “The Spirituality of Imperfection,” a book that is making the rounds with the men I work with. And just how important that book is, in teaching us to be spiritually aware, connected to God and connected to one another.
One of the things I think, is important in the lives of my men, is that we learn how to pump GOOD into the world. To ourselves, to our spouses, to our friends, and also to the people we work with on a daily basis.
Pumping good into the world, just for the sake of it, is not the goal here, but for us to engage our fellows with communication that may, one day, come back to us …
Juan works with our young millennial who is stuck in tunnel vision which I wrote about a few days ago. Juan’s job is to pump as much good into his young friend, that one day, he might sit in his office, and have a moment for himself, maybe a moment of clarity, and walk up to Juan and say … “Remember when you said “this” to me, well I get it now !!!
We need to communicate on many levels every day, with many people. And this is something we work on every day, to engage, polish and hone our messages. Because one day, all that work will come back to us, when we least expect it.
That is why, working with others is crucial for our recoveries. The communication of self worth, faith, love and charity can change a life, in ways we just cannot imagine. Which is why we hone our skills together, so that we can welcome a newcomer and spend precious time with them “showing them the ropes.”
God, is the hardest word to communicate to new folks. As we heard tonight, from one of our young men, who is in rehab here, who came from an evangelical home, who later turned his back on God, and went down the addiction rabbit hole, only now, “Coming to, to finding out, who the God of his understanding is, one day at a time.”
The words, keep coming back are appropriate here, because each day we return for another dose of sobriety, we hear communications and we see God (read:Higher Power) move in the rooms.
When I realized this, early on when I got sober this time, watching other people have spiritual experiences themselves, proved to me that there was something outside of myself that was working on my friends. And I wanted that for myself, so I kept returning to particular meetings, watching my friends get sober.
It was the chase for spiritual experience.
Something I tell people who are new, is the most thrilling aspect of going to meetings. Instead of chasing a buzz or a high, or a drunk, we chase healing, spirituality and in the end, God.
Last week, I got on a bus, traveling from Montreal to Ottawa. That ride, is the most peaceful ride. I can find my seat, usually, two rows from the back, on the right side. I sit down and I sink into my seat knowing I am turning my life over to the driver. And however long it takes us to get from point A to point B, is how long it will take.
I just sit back and enjoy the ride.
The return trip, both times I made this transit, is a quiet ride. The “coming home.” People usually sit quietly, not necessarily listening to music or reading, but it is like, we all know, we are, “returning.” And this ride is almost silent, aside from the bus moving and creaking along.
Last fall, on the way home, we were rewarded for our silence. Because as we entered Downtown Montreal, on the highway, a bright, Rainbow stretched from one side of the city to the other. It was magnificent. Everyone on the bus was stunned by the beauty of God.
What do we do at meetings is, we learn to turn off the chatter in our heads. We learn how to sit still. We learn how to listen. And we learn how to communicate.
And one day, it will happen for you, when you sit in a room and you share from your heart, and someone walks up to you afterwards, and says, “what you said changed my life…”
In the rooms, we expect miracles, because where else can you go and witness the miraculous ?
It has been whirlwind weekend spent with Alexander in his new home town, Ottawa. I’ve been disconnected from the internet since Thursday. And I really did not miss it at all.
It was good to spend time with my best friend and see the city, in the Winter. He lives in the heart of The Village. Just blocks from Parliament Hill. He just landed a new job working on the Hill for an MP. We toured the neighborhood where he will be working. The building sits between the Canadian Supreme Court building and Parliament Hill. MP’s are spread over several buildings, because they are numerous, so they could not be located in One Building.
Canada’s Supreme Court …
This is the building Rafa will be working in very soon. Very Swanky !!! Next door to the Courthouse.
Yesterday, we spent the afternoon touring The Peace Tower and the Memorial Hall. We missed out on an English tour of The Hill, tickets were sold out. I’d never seen that part of Parliament Hill before. And I have a bunch of photos from the Tower, looking down over Quebec (Gatineau) and Ottawa Proper.
I read “Shake Hands with the Devil,” written by Romeo Dallaire. It took me over a week to read. And while up the tower I took photos of places that he mentioned in the book. He was living on the Quebec Side, while in Ottawa, and several times in the story he crosses a certain bridge and finds himself in Confederation Park, where he finally hit his bottom, over a bottle of scotch.
We then visited Memorial Hall, where the names of all the soldiers who have been killed in the service in Canada’s Military are inscribed.The room is quite magnificent, and holds a wealth of meaning to our country.
The last time I was in Ottawa, last Fall, we attended a multi-media presentation which was projected on the face of Parliament Hill, and tells the story of how Canada came to be and how Parliament Hill was built.
Yesterday, we got to see the Tower from the inside and hear the story told by a guard in the Hall. And she shared with us all the constituent pieces that make up the room, from the stones on the floor, to the conflicts carved on the walls, and the several Books of Remembrance, located all around the room.
All of the soldiers who have died in the service of Canada, in all the conflicts over the decades, their names are written in Memorial Books. There are several. Every day at 11 a.m. the page of each book is turned by the keepers of the hall.
If you are family, of any soldier, in the books, you can communicate with Parliament, when your family members name appears on the page turned for that day. You can come to Memorial Hall and witness the page being turned, to pay respects to your honored dead.
After our tour, we headed for the Rideau Canal, which runs through Ottawa from the Ottawa River, across the city. The river is frozen, and is the worlds biggest skating rink. There were hundreds of people skating all along the river, which we walked for quite a bit, on the ice.
It Was Cold !!!
By the time we finished our afternoon event, we pulled up to the Rideau Center Mall, for some rest, warmth and quiet. Sitting in the food court, which was unlike any I had ever seen before.
All in All we walked about 8 kilometers over the day, from beginning to end. We went back home to rest for a bit before we hit a Thursday Night meeting in Ottawa. On Friday night we hit another meeting in the neighborhood close to home. The meetings we hit were close and within walking distance. It was good to hit a meeting each night and meet other alcoholics in the city. We did some service, and found Rafa someone to work with, I hope.
We visited the Book Bazaar located just down Bank Street from home. This used book store was HUGE and covered two floors with books piled from floor to ceiling. We spent some time looking around and I picked up a couple of books. If we had more time, and serious amounts of money, one could do some serious damage in a shop like this.
After the meeting Friday night, we came home just knackered. So we all went to bed early, and slept in late this morning. Rafa treated Meg, and myself to a breakfast of champions, which was nice to break bread all together.
This afternoon, I went to play some Dungeons and Dragons with Alexander and his friends. We did not get very far, because I had to catch my Uber to the Bus Station around 2.
Our bus departed Ottawa at 3 p.m. stopping in Kirkland and at the Airport here in Montreal, before ending its run at the central bus station at Berri.
The trip out took four hours because we got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic because our major highway system is under construction and is all torn up as they rebuild the whole entire structure.
Parliament Hill snowed under …
Can I just say that it is bitterly COLD outside. My poor tootsies froze on my transit.
UGH, can we get to Spring any sooner, please ?
February is moving along, and our team tonight, was made up of all new people in all areas of the meeting. I opened and a lady friend of mine was in the chair.
Hearing fresh stories are such learning experiences. Thursday night has seen a number of “Firsts” over the last few months. Our speaker tonight, was a young lady, whom I know from other meetings.
In her own words, “throughout her life, she thought it was necessary to hide every identifying marker that defined her. That she just had to hide who she really was, because her view of the world was so skewed.”
I try to tell my Lady readers, when I hear stories like this, that there are women out here who suffer, sometimes worse than the men do. Because in the end, tonight, when she finally made it to the rooms, she was dead inside.
Her junkie boyfriend once said to her, after he visited us occasionally, that “she would like us, if she was an alcoholic.” That one sentence rattled around her brain, until she was ready to come to a meeting.
People who come from small places in Canada, small towns, in far away provinces, this story is particular. Coming from dysfunction she did not know any better. By the time she hit high school, she had constructed a very fine facade to make sure she gave her friends the right image of who she thought she should be, and certainly, not who she really was.
People coming from small communities, with very little population, and moving into large city situations where many people are, can be jarring.
- In the end, she drank fast, to get “somewhere” other than where she was.
- She was always trying to get somewhere else.
- Because where she was, wasn’t cutting it for her.
Bring an Atlantic Province, small town girl, to Big City Montreal, with all its distractions and situations, brought our young lady to her knees.
The part of her story that I identified with was this …
Her longest relationship was with a boy, who was a junkie. Living in a house that was falling down around them, the only thing our young lady really wanted was “really good window coverings.”
She just did not want to see the light of day at 4pm while she slept.
Holding together an abusive, junkie relationship took all she had. And barring anyone or anything else, all she could do was try each day to hold it together, until that challenge became untenable.
I’ve said before that our young people suffer greatly. And the women, more so than the men. Their stories are frightful. Some of us guys listen and compare how hard we got into trouble with our addictions, and our stories pale in comparison.
When I began my slip, I was answering the call of the Hole in My Soul. And I packed up my house and moved 1000 miles from home into the middle of the United States answering a call to be with someone, I really had no idea about in reality.
Nobody knew where I was. If I had been arrested or died in that place, nobody would have missed me or come looking for me either. Living with an active junkie is a seriously tall order. Because, to outsiders, we had to present a common front, as if to say, its really not bad, we are ok. When in reality I was dying inside, stuck somewhere I really regretted finding myself.
That eighteen months was serious hell. I did make contact with an angel in the outside world at one point, who, when the time was right, sent the cops to get me out and save my life. There is no holding together a relationship with someone who was dead set upon self destruction and my destruction as well.
I had to get out.
Our young lady, in the end, found her way out, into the rooms.
What she found turned her life around in so many ways. That finely crafted facade fell away, when she realized that there were other women like her to talk to, and identify with.
I talk about how restorative the rooms are, if you use them wisely.
In our young lady’s case, all those problems like home, house, money and life, just melted away, and turned around, as if on their own.
I do not minimize the work she had to do, in this one years time, to see the wisdom in the choice she made that fateful day when she arrived on our doorstep. She is wise. After only a year and a couple of months, her life has seriously turned around.
I see her on Friday nights. Our young women are a tight bunch and they travel in packs to meetings, which is a very good thing.
Coming out of the dark, not having to hide who she was, behind a facade was freeing in miraculous ways. Can you imagine the energy and effort it took her to construct this wall between her and the outside world ?
Now, imagine for a moment, when she frees up all that pent up energy, and points it inwards, and turns all that negativity into positive strides …
That is Miraculous Power.
I know what that power is, because I learned that lesson myself.
In the end she said that in the rooms she had “Found her people.”
She exuded Gratitude from the heart.
Tonight we read another “Woman’s Story.” Because I am an Alcoholic, was written by our writer, in the 1950’s. By the end of the story, we find out that she is also 28 years sober, at the time of penning her story.
Trying to find out “Who We Are?” is a question that I think is universal, and not uniquely an alcoholic problem.
For every man or woman in the room, there is a story about who they thought they were as kids, then progressing throughout their lives, to the point they drank trying to figure it out, and finally coming to the rooms, where FINALLY, we figured that out.
In the end our lady found out that she was gay, she moved from the city to the country, and built a garden, where she found peace and serenity.
For me, I knew I was gay which was why I had to leave home. And the one bit of advice I took as gospel was that … “In order to be part of you had to drink…”
That was SOOOOO Wrong !
There were several point in her story that I identified with. Her life began in the country and a solitary childhood and her imaginary friends, then moving to a big city, where she encountered other kids, she still felt apart from, different.
Her odyssey of alcoholism took her all over the world, looking for connection and inclusion. But those tell tale signs, the massive drinking bouts, and black outs and not knowing what she did the night before, began to haunt her.
In her mind though … She just could not be an alcoholic.
Through a series of unfortunate, or maybe fortunate events, in the presence of her therapist and friends, she came around to see that actually, she WAS an alcoholic.
How many of us, just don’t see it while we were IN IT. How many of us came around at first, thinking that “I could not be an alcoholic!” How much time did we sit in the rooms trying to figure it out, justifying our habitual drinking, until we could not fight it any more.
We hear those same words again: Fear, Guilt, Anger, Rage …
We are in a season of “feeling” right now. Something I had not necessarily seen, but the signs were there. My circle of friends is tight. And we’ve been in each others company for a while now.
We have had losses of family, the loss of friends, communities. We’ve seen insanity come to other places, and tragedy occur here at home. I guess you could say that there has been a confluence of “current events” that have shaken the equilibrium of our people.
Our writer talks about finally being able to see and experience the world around her. Be that in her garden, or among her friends, or in the rooms, she mentions the word Seasons.
In my life, I think about the first time around, and what really mattered about that period in my life. Life was coming fast and furiously, and I really did not have time to stop and breath for such a long time.
I HAD coasted to the four year mark, relatively alive.
The familiar Geographical is a common theme in many alcoholic stories. As was apparent in our writers story. I had gone to the many places she did, in my own story.
My first stint in sobriety, did not offer me what this round did. There were too many unhealthy people in my vicinity. The messaging was all wrong. I was too disconnected to know better, that I was disconnected. And nobody knew to say anything before it was too late to affect change.
Even if I did know that, the HOLE in my SOUL, was running the game at the very end …
When I got sober the second time, I was all alone, save the people in the SOBE room who took care of me. I had no friends, no family, no relationship.
I reflect on the year 2001 … I was numb through a national tragedy.
The opportunity to make One Final Move presented itself. I had nothing to loose and everything to gain. I made that move, and did not look back.
I got to Montreal, in April of 2002. In the buffer zone between the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. During that first year of time, I was living alone, going to meetings, attending after care, and I stayed sober, by doing everything I was told to do without argument.
I had eight months of being able to experience my surroundings. The people in my life, then, kept me very busy and on a short leash. In the end, it took me about two years to fully integrate into Canada and find my footing.
I remember that I had time to breathe. You might not think that that is so important, but coming out of the scourge of AIDS and surviving, knowing how hard that was and how we held out collective breaths, hoping to live, because expectations were not very high, nor were the prognosis-es, realizing that I could breathe was very important.
I had come to the point that I was One, alive and Two, sober. With those two markers out of the way, I could concentrate on living life for the first time in my life.
I was almost a year sober before I met my now husband. I had all the time in the world to get to know my world intimately and soberly. And by the time we did meet, I was ready for that portion of my life to flesh out.
The book says that the only thing that has to change in sobriety is Everything.
We see, right now, that people are feeling. In Open Community. I did not notice this until now, having spent the last year and a bit feeling, myself. But over the past few months, feelings have been on our dashboards for some time.
Spend enough time with your friends, and life happens.
My fifteenth year was, as I have said, the most emotional year I have experienced, since I got sober this time around. I’ve been “feeling in open community” and in the end, those people, whom I thought were my friends, punished me for feeling, openly.
I had not known a time where my shortcoming would be used against me by people who watched me crack under my emotions, and then say that they just could not be part of my life anymore.
Alcoholics and Addicts have very selective abilities. Many of them, placed me on a pedestal and it seemed to me, in the end, that I was supposed to be this “Vulcan type” hybrid a.l.a Spock. Not allowing myself to feel anything.
Because when I did feel and express myself “in open community” people ran for the hills screaming and yelling…
I just cannot wrap my head around they way my friends turned around and ostracized me.
But it is what it is. I’m involved in new meetings and a new social circle.
Living in a four season country, if you take the time, there is so much to look forward to. So much to see and so much to experience.
My favorite season is Fall.
That is the season where the most happens. Falling leaves are amazing. Fall is beautiful in a country where trees and green spaces matter.
It is a religious experience, the very first night it snows. I wait for that night to happen every year. The first snow for me, is Holy.
Had I stayed where I was, in Miami, in a 2 season state, Wet and Wetter … Living in the hole I was living in, alone, I would never have flourished the way I did here.
This last move had to work, and I did all the right things.
I would never go back to the life I had for any amount of money.
Coming up on my fifties soon, all I have is time. And I need to remember to appreciate every day, because I never know when this other shoe is going to drop.
Twenty three years later, nobody knows what is going to come, or what life is supposed to look like, so we are all playing the game very carefully.
One day at a time …
It is a bit cold outside. And thinking I would change it up, I dressed a little simple with single layers … Note to self … No Single layers in the winter.
It was a full day for me. I think I said a few nights ago that I had looked in the mirror and realized that I had much more grey hair than I thought. I don’t usually study myself in the mirror, actually.
On my morning shop, I stopped into Pharmaprix, and bought me some hair color.
And I was gonna “Wash that grey right out of my hair …”
I bought a lighter shade, with some lighter tones, well, 35 minutes later, my hair was a bit redder than when I started, and not a hint of “light.” UGH. I guess the hair I have did not like the mix I gave it, so it spit something out totally different.
It’s ok. It’s not bad. I’m working on a grow out for a new cut next week, because I didn’t want to get a cut and look like I was stuck in between two styles.
I cleaned the apartment, did the laundry, cleaned the bathroom. Very good things.
**** **** ****
This month I am doing service again, at my Thursday home group. They gave me a set of keys so I can open/close this month. Last month I was talking to some of our women before the meeting, and they asked me if I could open, and I said to them that I have had a key for a church on my key ring, for the last 14 of my 15 years of sobriety.
I’ve maintained all the First Things First routine that I learned in my first year. I lived my life around that system and it worked for me. So rather than change something that works well, I just do what I have to do on a daily basis.
Our speaker was “family.”
The theme of the share was the Fading Away …
People who have had slip experiences, and get back, and make it, tell this same story, in differing ways, and differing circumstances. The consequences are always the same.
The theme is common.
I’ve said before that I’ve seen many people, in the double digit territory, tens, twenties and thirties … just fade away. They stop doing meetings. They stop calling.
They just STOP. Common.
Our lady friend tonight spoke about her ten year anniversary. Some, at certain points in sobriety allow the tape to begin to play …
- Ah, I’ve got this
- I haven’t had a drink in a long time
- I can skip a meeting or two
- or I can go without a meeting for a while …
In sobriety, things begin coming back, and life gets good. We get settled in a routine, that may/or may not/ require our full attention, and meetings fall by the wayside, as happened for our woman tonight.
Children, Mortgages, Jobs happen, Life happens.
She just faded away. When the fade begins, we tend to disconnect in small ways, that may seem innocuous in the beginning, but if we don’t catch the trend, we end up out the door.
She did not drink right away. Not for a while.
Then over a holiday in France, she was out with friends, and she had a simple glass of champagne. And was like … I am GOOOOOOOOOD !!!
Just one drink.
That eventually led to two, which eventually led to pitiful incomprehensible demoralization.
Double digits, down the drain.
Women suffer too. Drinking to have fun, and to be part of turned into drinking all alone on her night “to herself.” Shame Drinking in Secret …
One drink turned into “Bottles of Wine…”
Cue up Shame, Fear and the Killing of Self Worth …
She knew the drill. She has, like many of us, alcohol in the family. BUT she also had sober family for a bit. And good things came to her, but in the end …
She Forgot …
Thankfully, she found her way back a few years ago. And is now sober again, with some time. She made it back. Many women don’t make it back because of boatloads of problems like:
- Low Self Worth
- Nobody Cares if I am out here so why bother ???
Shame and Fear are two major killers, not to mention a killer bout of depression in the middle of all the drinking…
We are not doctors. And Depression is a serious topic, that if it arises, and we need help, we get that help. In the end she got that help.
The warning was really clear to me, because the same thing happened to me, at the first “four year mark.” But I did not fade away on my own steam. I faded away because members of a room of drunks, asked me to leave and not come back.
Dealing with a terminal illness, Go and Don’t come back, and the HOLE in the SOUL, are serious deal breakers if you are trying to stay sober, in a world that does not want you around.
But the fade away took place, because, like our lady tonight, she was DISCONNECTED from the system.
- No meetings
- No Sponsor
- No Book
- No Steps
- No Service
If you tick two or more of these things off your mental list, that is going on with you at the moment, then the warning is clear, the Fade Away IS IN Progress.
Nip that shit in the bud right away.
Because like they say, “The first time is a gift, the second, third or fourth time, you really have to work for it.”
And that’s the God’s Honest Truth …
The Fade Away can be avoided.
Recognize it before it is too late.
Nothing guarantees one sobriety more, than intensive work with another alcoholic.
These words ring true tonight.
There is only ONE time, you get to tell your story for the very first time. Tonight, the room was packed. The crowd was fresh, many friends, and groups from other places, visiting for the month of January.
Tonight, we heard a story for the First Time.
2 years and 2 months ago, I met a young man, the same age I was, when I came in. My young man was at his First A.A. meeting in Montreal. He had visited a room in his native Venezuela many years prior. He knew the drill.
That night, as the meeting closed, I was feeling strong and confident. We spoke after the meeting, and I gave him my number and told him to call me EVERY DAY.
That first week, he called me ONCE.
The following Sunday he came to the meeting, and I asked him why he didn’t call, as he was asked. He did not want to bother me. That Sunday he resolved to call every day. For the last two years, and a couple of months, he has done as he was asked.
When you work with others, A Vision for you says that:
Obviously, you cannot transmit something you haven’t got …Your Own House Must be in Order.
I believed I had something to offer, a Story. Experience, Strength and Hope.
But you never know what you have to offer, until conversations begin. Every time that phone rings, you never know what is going to come from the other end. You cannot respond with “Canned Responses.” You must rise to the challenge of whatever is asked of you. Working with others forces you to really Work Your Program.
Going to meetings, is not just Going to meetings.
One must exhaust every meeting and every human being in that meeting to its maximum benefit. I’ve spent the last fifteen years listening to people talk, in every meeting I have been to, to date.
I pride myself in knowing that, ONE, I did not do many things I watched others do. And TWO, I did not make the same decisions many others made. I was never alone. Over the years, observing my friends and listening to them, gave me opportunity to say, “I might do this, or I might do that, but I am definitely NOT doing that.”
With all that informed activity, soberly used, I am where I am. I have an entire bank of knowledge and decision-making skills. And I have used them wisely.
Sobriety is not a rush job. And sometimes progress is slow. But for my friend tonight, the pace of progress was reflected back at us tonight, in the wise and spiritual truths my friend shared with us tonight. It pays, having a cheat sheet.
He had a cheat sheet.
But that cheat sheet helped him share a message of true spiritual teaching.
A long time ago, my friend knew what he had to do. What happened was, that it took time to do the work and learn the lessons, and gain spiritual maturity to know God as he does.
We might pray for things we think we need right now. And for the most part, alcoholics believe that if they pray NOW that the payment will come NOW.
If one is not spiritually RIGHT, and learned of the process of growth and has done the appropriate work to get to a certain point, what we need won’t come, until we really need it, on God’s time-table. Knowing full well, what that gift is and how to use it wisely. If we receive answers and promises prematurely, without doing the work required TO RECEIVE, then the gift is wasted.
God does not seem to waste gifts prematurely.
I know this, because, over the years, I worked very hard at sobriety. And nothing came easily, or on my time-table. In fact, some prayers took YEARS to come to me. I needed to appreciate my petitions, and learn to know my limits.
And how to respect God’s timetable.
I had certain issues I needed to practice. Like Money, Love, Things, Relationships, a Roof over my head, and Food in the Fridge.
My life blossomed in year two. BUT, God held back for a long time, until I learned how to do One thing well, not necessarily perfect. But one thing at a time.
In the meantime, my needs were met. I had all the right people, in all the right places, at all the right times.
Only in year 13 did things change drastically, Positively.
Knowing my friend came in at the same age I did, with practically the same issues I had, I kind of knew the drill. And I have been cautious with my advice, always tempering my words, with the appropriate work that is required of him and of myself.
And that caution paid off.
Because my friend is wise, at this stage of the game. He knows who he is. And he respects God and God’s Wisdom. True spiritual growth is the point of getting sober.
Sadly … Many folks don’t get it, won’t listen to advice, nor have the will to do the work required to be really, spiritually, fit.
I may be spiritual, but if I don’t maintain that spirituality daily, I am useless.
I must rise to the challenge and become as spiritual as I can, and whatever work we need to do to get there is what we will do. And we employ reading, studying, praying, meetings, listening, discussing, and then acting.
The Spirituality of Imperfection was a game changing book.
Rafa read it, and gave it to me. I read it and gave it to my friend. He read it and gave it to his girlfriend to read.
Along with the basic text of the Big Book, we have this small tome to study as well, as the book is all about Alcoholics Anonymous. From a Spiritual direction.
A handful of people, I know, read this book. I was among them in the Summer of 2016.
Spirituality is a time necessary endeavor. And all we have is time. And for each soul, in the program, all we do is count time. But it is in between those points on the timeline, that growth takes place. It does not come overnight.
It was an amazing night. I am so proud of my friend. The room was electrified tonight, and the people were truly grateful for the message shared.
He knocked it out of the Park.
After a day of insanity and politics, we return to our regularly scheduled programming.
I’ve said what I am going to say.
It is an odd thing that happens, not very often, but tonight, we had one of the deepest meetings, we have sat, in a very long time. So many people are suffering. From a great many things, not necessarily drugs, or alcohol, or sex.
And it was mentioned after the fact, from friends, that when we compare notes, some of us are seeing and hearing the same things from many places. It is terribly unnerving to me after so many years, that so many of my friends are hurting, and there is nothing I can do for them, until they ask.
It is a very good thing that there is a handful of us on Friday night, who are tight. My Greatest friends, those who have been around the block and then some, those friends who at times were at odds with each other, have found that we want friendship more than anything else.
When the chips were handed out at the start of the meeting, two men got up. One, sitting behind me reeked of alcohol, and was sobbing in his beer all night. He said …
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. And he SOOOO wanted to stay in Vegas, but he decided to come into the hall tonight and take a chip.”
He disappeared after the meeting, after one of our women said no to him when he asked her if he could drive her home.We got her a taxi instead. But the man slipped out before we could stop him driving home, being intoxicated as he was.
A second man, who was terribly plastered hung back, had driven to the meeting intoxicated to begin with, instead of allowing him to drive home, at the end of the meeting a group of us, (we never travel 12 step alone) decided to sober him up a bit over coffee at a coffee-house not far from the meeting.
We drove him home. Because he was in no shape to drive.
My friends are suffering. And as we listen to each other, when we talk, there is so much more shit going on than we can address in any meeting. It was spoken tonight that the holidays were not kind to our men and women. And now we are reaping what has been sown for months and months.
People are beginning to crack around the seams.
I’ve been saying this for weeks and weeks … Months really, I’m not sure what I am doing right, or what my fellows are doing wrong, but I am in a totally different place, than many of my friends who have comparable time in the rooms.
And it’s not a point of judgment, just plain skills of observation and listening.
GHOSTS IN THE ROOMS
At this point in my journey, after listening to people talk for the last few months, I have seriously worked my ass off for the whole of my sobriety. What I am hearing and what I am seeing is that there are too many GHOSTS in the room.
I can share with you this poignant story …
There are some of us, who are still alive, twenty-five or more years after the AIDS crisis. In many big cities, Ft. Lauderdale, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc … Thousands of people died, ugly, serious, and terrible deaths.
Handfuls of men survived. We are a new breed of men. About five to ten years ago, we crossed a new life line. Those of us who had survived the carnage and are still alive.
Twenty plus years away from the epicenter of AIDS.
Some of those men, who had seen the worst, and lived, did not integrate back into society, they became GHOSTS. Many of them did not find their way back, after all the suffering we witnessed. And in many places, we know who they are. We can see them, but you might not necessarily be able to distinguish them, but we can. They walk around alone, lost.
Today, in the rooms … There are GHOSTS among us. People who have some serious issues that have never been dealt with. Yet they are in various lengths of sobriety. They might have the time, but, like I have said before, many times, many of my friends are cracked emotionally. I’ve been hearing these ghost stories for months.
I don’t know what to do any more. I know so many people, because I hit the same routine meetings week in and week out. I see them and have watched them for a long time. And you cannot connect with everyone. Not everybody wants to know you past the chair you are sitting in on any given night. There are only so many people who want to invest.
But I am told, by a good friend, that there are certain men with some time from the Friday night meeting, that when we talk, people listen. They might not say anything to us, but when I talk, I am honest. I tell the truth. I only talk about what I know, and what I have observed and heard, and how all that information relates to me soberly.
I want something more. I have worked the rooms for everything they can give me. I’ve pounded the pavement for the whole of my sobriety. And now, at this point, I know, for certain, just what a good chunk of friends have been doing. Because I listen to them talk.
I am told, by my friends that I’ve walked a certain path, that has brought me to this point, that my journey is unique. From the very beginning, I made a decision, that I would listen and observe my friends. And from that, my sobriety would be built by what my friends were either doing well, or not doing well. I think I’ve made wise choices, because I see where my decisions paid off, in the ways my friends are cracked today.
I made sure that I was never alone. That I wasn’t making decisions on my own, and that I had people, across the board to talk to about various things, along the way.
Not everybody took that same route. And now I know that for sure. I’ve got enough time and the skills to hear it for myself, just how cracked many people are, and just how hard they are suffering. And for many of them, I can do nothing but listen, and where possible say something that isn’t stupid and pithy.
The rate of return for those folks who went out over the holidays are low. And we are working very hard to keep those men and women “In the Loop.” But some of my friends are still walking around shell-shocked. One of my friends in particular, is just a mess, but he is hanging on by a thread. I say very little, beyond Hi and Nice to see you again.
I don’t know what is worse … Being sober, where I am right now, or not being able to do a God Damned thing for the many who need it. I don’t have the ability to help everybody and not everybody wants help.
Some just want to be left alone. And we have to respect that.
When people need us, they will say so. We just need to keep showing up.
And we need to be honest and willing to go to extraordinary lengths to make sure, that when needed we step up and do what we need to do to safeguard the lives of those who come to our rooms.
As was the case tonight.
Tonight, January 9th …We read, Physician Heal Thyself. A story about Humility. A story about Higher Power, A story about Turning it Over. And this topic that I had written on some time ago, repeats itself. So I present it again.
An old friend came to the meeting tonight. A friend I have known since he came in some time ago, and I had an amends to make to him, because, on a particular night, I stood in front of a meeting, and spoke. It was the first time I had spoken at a meeting in over five years. In retrospect, I was not very sober.
I might have had some time, but on that particular night, I was all over the map. And not seeing this friend since, I have had time to see the past, in the light that I see it now.
Lessons come, but the real nugget only comes in retrospect.
And my friend said to me that he was in the market for a sponsor, that his double digit sponsor was fading away into the air and away from meetings. On the way to the metro the discussion we were having had a sense of urgency to it, incomplete though it was.
Hopefully we will cross paths again.
Juan is set to speak, for the first time in his sober journey at St Matthias on the 26th. I wasn’t sure he would accept, but he did gladly. Its a very important job when you get to do it for the first time. I’ve never heard him tell his story to a room, no one has. But I know his story from our work together over the past two years.
I’ve had some time to regroup, and re-order my life. Now I know, really, at this point, what I want, where I am going, and what I need to do to get there. I’ve made some new contacts in other meetings. I’ve taken on a service position at the Area level for the Friday meeting, which is a two year commitment. I’ve joined the Thursday night meeting, officially, and I chaired the business meeting last week. The Monday Big Book meeting has become part of my regular meeting schedule.
We are off to a good start. Everybody has work to do. We are all ordering our lives accordingly, using new tools, (read: Bullet Journal).
With that I give you … Absolutely, Completely, Thoroughly, Honestly, Redux.
RARELY have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.
Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided that you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it – then you are ready to take certain steps.
At some of these we balked. We thought that we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.
Remember that we deal with alcohol – cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power – that One is God. May you find him now.
When I arrived at the point that God felt I was ready to work with others, he opened the gates and sent me my troop. And ever since then, I have endeavored to be absolutely, completely, thoroughly, honest. Over the past few days, it has been said that I have kept my troop honest. Which filled my heart with joy overflowing.
There are things we do daily, weekly, and often that keep us on the path to staying honest in all our affairs. Over the past few weeks, we have heard stories, and I have written about them here. The overarching theme lately has been, what happens when we are dishonest, when we keep secrets and when we tell lies.
I can’t repeat often enough, the warnings we are hearing from the chair at speaker meetings. Because now, I listen to my friends talk about their stories, and the varied choices they had made and continue to make, and I utter that prayer …
There but for the Grace of God go I … I could be them !
How it Works, is a staple reading, you hear at almost every meeting, one way or another. It is repetitive, and the words never change. They were written decades ago and are words of wisdom from a bygone era. After hearing this reading read, one too many times, I heard a particular woman, get up and read this passage, slowly, passionately, word for word, slowly, methodically, with a sense of meaning I had not heard before in the past.
There are two types of How It Works Readers…
- The Machine Gun barrage – from beginning to end without a breath
- The Toss it all Together reader – who does not respect the comma or period.
Tonight, we listened to it read at the top of the meeting, and we heard the reading parsed by our speaker tonight.
“Absolutley, Completely, Thoroughly, Honestly”
There comes a time in sobriety, that we think we have this all wrapped up, and we are doing well, and have no fear of that first drink. Scary …
But when the chips are down, and we are against the proverbial wall, are we able to speak to our friends and fellows, and tell them that “maybe we are not doing so well, and that we may be in trouble, and that the outsides might not be congruent with our insides?”
We go into meetings, and we always want to look good on the outside, because we want our fellows to see calm, sober, good looking people. But just beneath the surface, the reality might be that we are not really calm, or sober, or good looking.
Sometimes, we are just not 100%.
The truth is when we are able to say, “I am not okay!”
If we are rooted in honesty, even if it hurts, we can share anything with our friends and sponsors. This is where, secrets and lies, arise. They say, and I heard it again tonight, that “While we are in meetings, our alcoholism is out in the parking lot doing push ups … Waiting patiently for us outside.”
And you never know, when it is going to happen. We begin to keep secrets, and our old alcoholic behavior rears its ugly head. Our old thinking returns, old patterns return, and we slip into old behavior, oh so quietly. And we might not recognize it right away, and if we don’t, we are off to the races.
They tell us that when we hit a slip, that it is premeditated. That often, what starts as an errant thought, becomes an errant action. Time and time again, we listen to stories of people who go back out, and when they return, we hear what happened and what led them back out the door.
Sobriety Looses Its Priority.
What happens when we keep secrets and what happens when we begin telling lies, not to others, but lying to ourselves to begin with? It begins with us, in our heads. If we are not vigilant we can fall into this trap. Secrets and Lies.
It might be simple and innocuous, but after a while, becomes a snowball heading down the mountain at 100 miles per hour.
I sat there tonight, listening to a man tell a story about being sober a LONG time, falling into old behavior, and then he kept a secret and told a few lies, and then ended up in a bar, with not one beer, BUT TWO …
Then follows years of getting stuck in the proverbial revolving door. Our man is one, that I have seen in my time, who collect enough beginner’s chips to tile a bathroom with. He goes to meetings, but is unwilling to get honest. Sponsors turn him away and won’t take him on, because, let’s face it, if we are being honest, if you aren’t in the game, most men or women would not take you on, unless you are ready and willing to get honest, because this is your life/our life we are talking about.
The warning is very stark and very real.
We heard it again tonight, those similar words,
“Please, for the love of God, Do Not Do what I did.”
If you are out there in the room, and you are pondering a slip, or you are in any way feeling squirrely, or you are coming back, please, talk to someone, don’t leave this room with shit on your shoulders.
When I hear stories like this time and time again, I come home and I write them down, then I turn around and speak to my troop about warnings and prevention.
I remind them that this is not a game to be taken lightly. They need to be in the game 100%, and we work tirelessly, to maintain The Work at maximum efficiency.
Winter has not been kind to our numbers. For the last few months, on both the sides of women and men, we have heard how they have battled the bottle in sobriety.
I go to my meetings, and I know my friends, and I get there early enough that I get to spend twenty minutes talking to them. We know who the front row sobriety folks are, and we also know who the back benchers are. Which is why, at certain meetings, we have moved seats forward and off the back wall. We put out more chairs in the room proper, to make sure, everyone is sitting among everybody else.
That is why we stress, at my home groups that, the twenty minutes before and the twenty minutes after are the most important minutes in a meeting, because we get fellowship, phone numbers and friends. Not necessarily in that order.
The warnings have been clear … Absolutely, Completely, Thoroughly, Honestly.
Anything else, is a recipe for certain disaster …
Because we need happy dog photos right about now …
On the way home last night, my friend Juan and I were talking about The Work. Juan just crossed the two year mark last month, and we’ve bumped up The Work for him.
The good thing about having some time under my belt, is this …
I’ve practiced all the suggestions I had been given up to this point, and I know that some of those suggestions worked for me. Many of those good suggestions came LATE in my program, in means of time. In the beginning, it was those simple suggestions that got me started, and that I have maintained for the last fifteen years.
Last night we reflected as a group, “What if someone, when we were in our twenties, said the word STOP ” Would we have listened. And what that might have looked like in retrospect.
These days, with some time, when appropriate, I offer the suggestions I have learned since, to people, who are in their infancy stage of sobriety, the first few years …
The benefit in this actions is that with Them, I can give them some serious nuggets of truth and work, so they get this information early on, and can either choose to put it into action, or ignore everything that I had said to them.
Better to have a bank full of knowledge now, to be able to use that knowledge, than spending a decade or more seeking knowledge, and it come too late in the game, so to speak. Some of the knowledge I learned from years twelve to fifteen, would have been really useful, early in my sobriety, but it is what it is.
In year twelve, I learned, new to me at least, that spirituality was the keystone to getting sober. I knew about prayer long before this, but it had never been made aware to me just how hard I needed to practice my spiritual program, in order to really light the fire in my belly, and for some serious change to come to pass.
I’d read the book, worked steps, successively over twelve years, but I had not really connected with the Greater Power than myself to the extent I really needed to. It took someone from someplace else, to show me what I really needed to do.
THE WORK became the name of the game. INTO the Big Book, Like a trooper in the Marines. Word for Word, Prayer after Prayer. WORK, WORK, WORK, like your life depended on it. Or else one would perish without it.
And I did exactly as I was told to do it.
And the universe shifted for me in ways I had not imagined.
When Juan crossed the two year mark, we began to look at prayer, directly from the book. We set out an ambitious program of prayer and meditation for him. He is practicing the art of finding “Stillness.” Learning how to just “Be Still.”
This is not easy, in a world full of noise and activity.
But if you practice, every day, one finds it.
Had I known this practice early on, to the degree I learned it later on, maybe my world would have shifted earlier than it had. But once again, lessons come, when they are going to come. When we are ready to hear those lessons and make them work.
Where were we in our heads early on, First, in our drinking careers, and Second, when we were/are in early sobriety ? Would we listen or not?
I know, for myself, how hard I worked to get sober, and the lengths I went to for a meeting, to have friends, and to learn how to be ME. I was involved going into year two, and things got very ugly, right away.
For every day that went by, and challenges came at us, then, I would go to a meeting. I would talk about what was going on, and I would get advice, that I listened to as if it were gospel. I did this day in and day out.
I did stay sober. I did the best that I could have done. And in the long haul, all that investment into my sobriety, it paid off in spades.
I go to the speaker meeting on Thursday nights and I listen. This is another art that one must learn how to do. Every story is important, for the speaker and for the crowd.
We talked last night about choices…
Early on, as I sat in the rooms, I had my life going on. And I was learning, for me, what were good choices. Did I make some bad choices, no. I think I did my best.
All along I was listening to my friends and fellows, and I was watching the choices they made, along the way. And in this witness, I could ask a question, “Should I do what these guys were doing, or not? Were they making wise choices?”
For the most part, I did NOT DO what my friends were doing. I DID NOT make the same choices that some of my friends made. And I sure as shit, DID NOT engage in behavior that some of my friends were exhibiting.
And now I see, today, when I listen to those same friends share at a meeting, just how cracked they still are, because of choices and actions they made early in their sobriety.
I hear old timers talk about the good ole days. And then there are those folks who came in around the same time I did, and/or after. I’ve got fifteen years of listening to bank on. And over the past few months, I’ve heard a number of my fellows, who came in after I did speak.
No two sober journeys are the same. Nobody takes the same road.
And in listening, I see the track that my friends took. I hear the challenges they faced, the choices they made, and what happened because of those choices and actions.
And I think to myself, Thank Christ, I did not make those same choices way back then because I would be as cracked as some of my friends are still today.
We all come to sobriety with our assorted sacks of baggage. We come with all the stuff, we had in our lives, like jobs, family, people, issues, etc …
When we begin to get sober, they tell us that, we have to find the way to work in a sober program, every day, to mitigate our stinking thinking. And to begin the clean up our lives and make them better. That is just the beginning.
I did not have a life to speak of when I got sober early on. I had plenty of time on building the infrastructure of meetings, home groups and service that was solidly in place, as life began to happen around me.
They told me to build my life around my sobriety, not my sobriety around my life. And that if I put anything before my sobriety, I would eventually loose it.
I guess I was listening to the right people, or I was just gullible enough to believe what these people were saying was true. In the end, fifteen years later, I see the wisdom of every suggestion I was given, and now I know that in doing exactly as I was told, I got here.
A lot of my friends, who are sober today, but are cracked in the head, heard much of the same advice I heard, from the same people, in the same meetings, from the very beginning.
Today, I know, that some of my friends, did not listen, nor heed the advice we all heard together, and in not doing so, caused YEARS of strife, pain and fucked up-ness.
I did not second guess what I was hearing from certain people, at the same time I was watching others acting on their will, and that did not end well. Some of my friends drank again, some returned, many did not. Some are DEAD.
As I listen to folks speak these days, I say to myself, I busted my ass to get sober. And I really pounded the pavement, unlike some folks I see today who have some time, who skated along, and are still cracked in the head.
And this is not my ego, at all. And I am not judging my friends. But it is truth, when I hear my friends talk, and they tell stories about what went down in the years after we all came in together, and how much they suffered, because they did not heed the warnings, they made the choices they did willingly, and suffered for those choices.
Meanwhile, I would often say to myself, along the way … Uh, I don’t think I should do the same. I think I will do THIS instead. And a good thing too.
This begs the question … What did I do right, that my friends did not do right ?
Maybe its not a question of right or wrong, but the choices we all make in our lives.
No two people are the same, and no two people make the same choices.
Numbers of folks have come in, in the last fifteen years. And each of those people, chose a path, based on what they were given, what they have heard, and what they chose to do.
I know the path I took. I know that I stuck very close to my friends and fellows. I always had someone in the game with me, at every stage of the game, in multiple places, at the same time. I was never alone. I never made one single decision by myself. Every time I had to do something, either big or small, I passed that decision by at least three people, before I acted on those decisions.
That plan was a success, and paid off in spades, later down the line.
I never went with my first choice. Never go with your first choice.
Many of my friends, did not enjoy the company of people to get them through, early on, like I had, but some did. I had gotten connected to Chabad Lifeline, I was connected in meetings. I had counseling, advice, therapy, meetings, I had all this structure to keep me on the beam. And those people did wonders for my sobriety early on.
I lucked out, that the right people were in my life at the time I really needed them. I don’t know a single soul, who had that kind of grace, in their lives.
Once again, GOD.
That was the path that was chosen for me, because I happen to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, who stepped into my life and made things happen for me.
In hindsight, all those good graces, came from a Divine Source. I surely was not in control, God was. And I know, that staying on that spiritual beam early on, to the extent that I knew spirituality then, made the difference.
In year twelve, The spiritual fire had been lit anew. A larger, greater fire of truth was opened to me. The flicker of faith was already there, it just needed some fuel to get it burning brighter.
And so it did.
And now we are here, one day into year sixteen.
What is life going to do next. What is the next big adventure, and what choices am I going to make.
That chapter is still waiting to be written.
Let’s get it on, shall we …
Hello out there. Today is October 2nd – I’ve noticed in many places, the leaves are beginning to turn. Thanksgiving is next Sunday and I am cooking a feast for my little family once again.
Imagine, next Monday, here in Canada, The battle for Christmas will begin. An entire month earlier than you folks down in the U.S. of A. They won’t be closing up Halloween shops until the end of the month, and in the meantime, the competition for WHO puts up Christmas decorations FIRST is always a holiday mystery.
I know that in St. John’s New Foundland, Christmas trees are up in stores there already. Winter always hits the Atlantic Provinces first.
It has been a very busy week.
This week my meeting routine takes a turn for something a little bit different. My sponsor has encouraged me to seek out a new adventure, since completing this round of “Booking.” (read: The Steps)
The Set Aside Prayer
God, please set aside everything I know about
The Twelves Steps
And You God
So that I can have a new experience, Please let me See the Truth
Tomorrow night, we hit a new meeting, just down the hill from home, called “Love and Tolerance.” It’s very close to home, and very convenient.
Before the meeting we had been talking about changing it up, and my sponsor then asked me to do something totally out of left field. I’ve been learning French, via the Metro Method, (read: There are tv’s in most of the Metro Stations that show news, weather and train times) and they all run in French. And I’ve noticed that my French is getting better, well, my reading comprehension.
With that said … I am going to start hitting our sister meeting on Thursday night, ( Jeudi St. Leon) at the same church we meet on Sunday night’s, IN FRENCH. My friends from that meeting, who are native Francophones come to Sunday night, and other English meetings to learn, or improve their English. So they invited me to come on Thursday to begin integrating into the French community, which will be something totally new for me.
I brought home a French Big Book to look over, and one of my friends is going to send me the prayers, translated into French so I will at least learn them before Thursday.
Instead of hitting an English meeting, I will be hitting a French meeting.
Saturday is still up for grabs. I hoped to initiate a Saturday night Date night for hubby and myself, seeing we never go out ever unless it is a special occasion for dinner or something.
Fall is certainly on its way. My favorite season of the year, because in just a few short months up here in the North we traverse three seasons, and everything changes so much, very quickly. And in the Fall we get to see the Majesty of Mother Nature in all her Grandeur.
Tomorrow morning, bright and early, (read: The ass crack of morning 8 a.m.) the building workers will begin the destruction of my balcony. They have been knocking down all the balcony banisters and walls on the entire building. 7 apartments. Ours is the last one to be started. Last week, they asked if I would clean all the crud that was on the balcony floor, (read: All that Shit that has been under the floor boards for the last 42 years).
And I was like, “How am I supposed to do that ? I don’t have a freaking shed in my bedroom with cleaning tools and leaf bags, and by the way, a shovel would be great for that kind of thing.” Our Super came up and told me this in French, and I did not get it at first, so about half an hour later the building manager came up to translate, when I then inquired about “Tools and Bags.”
They got me a square shovel and a handful of bags. A plastic shovel at that.
There is a hanging wall of plastic over the opening and I stirred up a shit load of dust in doing the job, I failed to remind them that I am immuno-compromised and that I will probably get sick from dust and allergens from the shit on the ground…
Of course I did …
2 leaf bags later, I had completed said work.
Now tomorrow at the crack of dawn, jackhammers will announce the arrival of morning before I even get out of bed. Which at such time, I will have no choice but to get out of bed because my bed, is just inside the balcony door, and sleeping while jackhammers pound the building is a lost cause.
More to come. Stay tuned …